Stress Really Does Age You, Study Finds

One of the most important factors in keeping your skin looking young and vibrant is good cellular health. Boosting or maintaining a healthy rate of cell turnover can mean the difference between dewy, fresh skin or a complexion that's clogged with dulling dead skin cells. Another important factor, how you respond to stress, has been found to play a key role in how your cells age, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

The scientists studied the effects of stress on 50 women, half of whom were under chronic stress due to caring for a loved one suffering from dementia. The caregivers showed the most significant signs of anticipation in the face of a stressful event, which was reflected in cells that looked older than the non-caregivers.

The telomeres, the protective ends of the chromosomes, in these women were shorter than others who experienced less anticipation of stressful events, like having to speak in public or completing math problems. Short telomeres have been associated with premature aging.

Beyond the effects to your skin, this type of cellular damage caused by on-going stress is also linked to health concerns, such as cancer and heart disease.

"Our goal is to gain better understanding of how psychological stress promotes biological aging so that we can design targeted interventions that reduce risk for disease in stressed individuals," the study's lead author Aoife O'Donovan, PhD, told ScienceDaily.

We all deal with daily stress, but with the findings in this study that chronic stress accelerates cellular aging, practicing stress-relieving habits may be more important than ever. Delegating tasks, eating well, meditating and getting regular exercise and good sleep are all proven ways to ease the stress load. What are some of your tried-and-true stress relievers?


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12 Comments
  • ladyt
    Posted on

    I have definately experienced this!!! The last couple of years have been the most stressful in my life! I have been at the point of suicide. God saved me!!! He would not allow me to die. Now I pray everyday - allday!!! I laugh, sing, and dance!!! I do not allow ANYTHING to stop me!! Im 50 but people say I look 30! I work very very hard, day and night. I only sleep 2-3 hours a day sometimes. I spread God's joy and love everywhere I go. Even if I was to die today, I will have lived a blessed and beautiful life. I only give thanks and beg him to guide me. This is all I want and all I need. I have now gotten engaged to the man of my dreams!!! He is 36. Have faith, love and joy in your heart. ALL the stress will leave you!! God Bless.

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    I have a husband with bi polar disorder and I have been with him now for 4 years. We were friends first before we ever started dating and our relationship moved incredibly fast. Before I knew it, we were engaged and then married shortly after. He had the most magnetic pull to his personality and I was hooked almost immediately. He was diagnosed with bi polar 5 months after we started dating because i gave him a choice to either get help and seek medication and counseling or else i was gone! He sought out help and I assumed things would get better. Things did get somewhat better 6 months later after his medication started to kick in, but the amount of constant stress has been unbearable!!!! I LOVE HIM TO DEATH, but we still argue all the time and i feel like i am always walking on egg shells around him. Its exhausting. Whether he is fighting with me or fighting with someone else, the stress has aged me like you can't believe!!!!!! 4 years of constant stress!!!!! I feel like an old lady when i look in the mirror now. It makes me so sad! I'm 29 years old and look like a 50 year old!!!! Maybe not 50, but close to it! I cna't take much more, but its to hard for me to leave someone that I love. I dont know what to do .... HELP PLEASE!!!

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    Patti I just wanted to reach out and let you know that the grieving process is different with all people, you will get stronger and I'm so sorry for your loss, Although I'm not dealing with the issue of death, my isolation due to stress has me crying too, I'm only 25 so hopefully it won't impact the aging process too bad, lol. Just know your not alone, I see a psychiatrist 3 times a week plus I text and email back and forth daily, he makes me feel like I'm not alone I wish the guy was my dad. I'm on medication and maybe that could help you in the short term and definetly a psychiatrist bc like me some friends stopped talking to me bc I was told they couldn't handle talking to me often bc I sounded so depressed and it brought them down, so I live with a similar pain too but know that nothing lasts forever and it will become bearable. Sending you only good wishes.

  • Patti
    Posted on

    Beth,Thank you so much for your caring and your suggestions. I plan to make time this week for a massage. It's been two months and I still cry everyday. I feel like everyone tries so hard not to talk about my husband, and it makes me feel so alone. I need to talk about him. The financial stuff is overwhelming and his side of the family are not supportive at all, even though I've been more than generous with them. I am totally an after thought with most everyone except my very longtime friends. Really hurts. If stress is so aging, I'm going to look 80 before I'm even 60. Help.......Patti

  • Beth
    Posted on

    Patti, my deepest condolences in the loss of your husband. It takes time to grieve and allowing yourself that time is the first step toward healing. Too many people rush grief. It can't be rushed. If the process is short-circuited, the healing is short-circuited and it can lead to a lot of long-lasting "hidden" stresses and a kind of paralysis in moving forward for the long term. To help your body cope with all of this emotional stress, I suggest finding a really good deep tissue massage therapist. Massage can bring out the emotions too, so don't be surprised if time on the table brings out the tears (especially if the person is very good at working deep) but it is a healing kind of release (over time). Please note: I am NOT a massage therapist but am speaking from experience -- my own and walking beside others who are grieving a great loss. Praying that you'll find peace and be comforted even as you go through this difficult time. P.S. Hospice centers offer (often free of charge) grief support groups and counseling. When my mom died my dad was very hesitant to go to a such a group, but when I urged him on and he finally decided to give it a try. He only went to the group about 3 - 4 times, but he found it comforting.

  • Lori
    Posted on

    Adequate sleep, a healthy diet, exercise as much and often as possible; laugh often with good friends, maintain harmony in all important relationships, shopping, occasional fun, not overworking like a type a personality. Oh and make sure you visit Faces at least once a week!

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    Chronic or severe stress can also wreak havoc on your hair. :( If you are prone to hair thinning or hereditary hair loss, an episode of stress can take its toll in terms of shedding, receding or thinning. At Bauman Medical Group we take a holistic, multi-therapy approach to hair loss to help you maintain and enhance the hair you have as well as restore the hair you have lost. 1) Diagnosis, 2) Measurements/Benchmarking, 3) Treatment Plan, 4) Follow-up measurements to make sure your plan is working! Sincerely, Dr. Alan J. Bauman, M.D.

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    Chronic stress can lead to a variety of health and emotional problems. Yoga has many forms and intensities. Hatha yoga, in particular, may be a good choice for stress management. Hatha yoga is one of the most common styles of yoga, and some beginners find it easier to practice because of its slower pace and easier movements. Controlling your breathing is an important part of yoga. In yoga, breath signifies your vital energy. Yoga teaches that controlling your breathing can help you control your body and quiet your mind. Yoga becomes part of your mental life. The attention to breath is calming; it dissolves stress and anxiety. I use yogic breathing throughout the day, whether I'm exercising, stuck in traffic, or in the dentist chair. Simple yoga breathing exercises can be done any time to help calm your mind or give you an energy boost.

  • Patti
    Posted on

    My husband just passed away. I don't have one minute, except during sleep, without stress & crying. Any suggestions? Talking about all the problems that are now in my life makes it worse.

  • Cathy M
    Posted on

    I am totally and forever addicted to a cardio high! I am in love with exercise!

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    Shopping is always a good one...or sometimes a little extra dessert!

  • katieb
    Posted on

    If I'm dealing with a particularly stressful week, whether it be work, home, family or otherwise, I try to up my work out schedule. The release of endorphins usually helps keep me calm. If that doesn't work there's always retail therapy!

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